Can we FORSAKE the WORLDLY PLEASURES to OBEY GOD? The word of the Lord also came to me, saying, "You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place." For thus says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bore them and their fathers who begot them in this land: "They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented nor shall they be buried, but they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth. They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, and their corpses shall be meat for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth." (Jer. 16:1-4)
The theme of Jeremiah’s life is revealed in the next two chapters (16 & 17) as the message of God to His people of Israel comes through a series of events in the life of the prophet. The prophet Jeremiah was specifically forbidden by God to ever marry or have children of his own in the light of the coming judgment from God and the impending destruction that would follow thereafter. In the face of the horrible specter of death, destruction, and deportation, Jeremiah was neither to marry nor to grieve for the objects of God’s righteous judgment. A catastrophe was soon coming upon the families of Israel in which both parents and children would die horrible deaths!
The Bible scholars are of the opinion that Jeremiah was the only man in the Bible who was specifically forbidden by God to marry and have children. Why did God deny the prophet this family relationship that was cherished by all Israelites? It was to demonstrate that the impending doom through God’s judgment would disrupt all normal relationships. The prophet’s single lifestyle would be made an object lesson and a message to the people of the horrors to come. It would be better not to bring children into the world, so they would not experience those tragedies. Jeremiah was also forbidden from either mourning or feasting because death would be so widespread and this calamity would the Lord’s doing!
When we study the lifestyles of the Old Testament prophets, we can clearly discern that their domestic life was frequently used to reinforce their messages (see Hos. 1:2–9; Isa. 8:3; Ezek. 24:15–27). Both the prophets Isaiah and Hosea were asked to name their children to emphasize their messages from God. In the case of Jeremiah, God commanded him to remain unmarried in a society where someone remaining single was a rare occurrence. By remaining single, Jeremiah became a living symbol of the coming judgment, and this was not the time or place to have a family considering the impending crisis!
Thus, Jeremiah was willing to obey God’s strict command to remain celibate during a time when celibacy was abnormal and large families were indicative of God’s blessing upon a household. Jeremiah was willing to face life and his adversaries with God as his sole comfort and support just to obey God. In the similar manner, we also should be willing to love and obey God over the opposition of our family members (see Matt. 10:34-38). Jesus has made His discipleship criteria for us to be willing to ‘hate’ our own family members when He made the following statement: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:25-27).